Teachers as Learners and Why Acknowledging Sources is so Important

Recently, we hosted a batch of collaboration tours consisting of parents interested in cooperative model and teachers from other centers and schools. These are not simply tours of the school, our approach, or materials. The tours truly are collaborative. We have the opportunity to learn from other teachers and parents. These folks found us through our facebook page, facebook groups, and others through pins on pinterest, but to be more exact, I would say we found each other. These social networking sites opened up a world of possibility for me professionally and this was not the original intention when we joined each platform (our most recent add...google+). I initially envisioned the school's interactions on social platforms as a way to keep in touch with alumni even though the co-oping mom who helped me set it up knew that it could be much more than that.

The "more than that" ended up being about idea-sharing and shaping/hammering out our approach about what we mean by "best practices" in early childhood. A great example of this global sharing is offered via Kierna Corr in her blog post, Inspired by the InternetOf course, I have gravitated to like-minds, but I have also learned about what other people views are on best practices.

Through all these interactions, I have come to some conclusions about why crediting sources and acknowledging inspirations is so important, especially using social media because it is so easy to let the like buttons and sharing options do the work for us.

The idea of crediting sources goes back to something I learned while working on my teaching degree. My first degree/career was in film/video production and scriptwriting. While we studied film theory, the actual work was imagined as one of innovation and the Next Big Idea.  When I began my master's program, I thought that was what was expected. That changed quickly as I saw not just the value, but the need, for sourcing and grounding practice in research. There are many disciplines  that hold with the belief, rightfully so, that the source of the practice is as important as the practice itself -- not alone, but in harmony. Disciplines ranging from yoga to biology source the research, the ideas, and the inspiration. In early childhood, this is especially evident in Reggio-inspired and Montessori settings. The words, "I studied with..." and "inspired by..." grounds practice and validates training.

Ideas are the currency of academia, as Judy Hunter, director of the Writing Lab at Grinnell College, noted in her tutorial ... “A citation is both a signpost and an acknowledgement. As a signpost, it signals the location of your source. As an acknowledgement, it reveals that you are indebted to that source.”  She succinctly observes that in an academic context, there are three crucial reasons for citations: one, ideas are “the currency of academia”; two, a failure to cite the origin of an idea “violates the rights of a person” who first came up with it; and three, “academics need to be able to trace the genealogy of ideas.”

Citation and acknowledging sources means that we become stronger, together. Our work becomes a unified force with far-reaching impact. It becomes unassailable and creates common ground. And most importantly, it becomes doable. We are all on the same page.

I, myself, have used the expression, "I am stealing that." It is such a common refrain in education, but I must actively remember -- ideas are currency in academia. I actively remind myself, "I must give props". Now for some practical advice regarding sourcing ideas on facebook. Compared to google+ which prompts you to remember that the original post was shared in a particular way, "Are you sure?" it asks, the facebook platform tells us, "share, share, like, like, like" it becomes so easy to simply share away. Facebook users have to be purposeful in their shares to credit their sources. It takes an extra step, but a simple one and it begins with "@". By typing in an @ followed by the name of your source, you have now credited the source. Alec Duncan at Child's Play Music is an expert at this...he provides a reflection and adds the source. Other page administrators do this as well. I administrate the Parent Cooperative Preschools International's page and while I do not offer in-depth reflections, I purposefully tag the source of the photo/status in my share. This way there is a credit that will carry through subsequent shares. This action returns the facebook user back to the original share.

Another method of sharing cuts out any possibility of returning viewers ever to the original source and that is when admins download the original image and then upload it onto their pages as a seemingly fresh source. In at least one instance, some industrious facebook admin actually edited the original image to cut out the source which was Emily Plank - Abundant Life Children. I liken this to the daily photo challenge created by Donna Ridley-Burns (Irresistible Ideas for Play-Based Learning) and Marc Armitage (Marc Armitage at Play), both incredible photographers and educators. When they asked for participation a year ago, a lot of folks joined in, each with a unique approach. Ayn Rorick Colsh of Little Illuminations offered up a book-a-day and I responded with the only thing I knew and do...photographic examples of what I witness every day. Play. I tagged the first round as #Play365Plus1 because it was a leap year. I loved the project so much that I began another year tagged simply, #Play365. This is not the Next Big Idea, but it is sourced to me and I know of a few pages and individuals who have adopted this tag/album name. Good for all of us. We are creating a unified force, but in the meantime, ideas are the currency of academia. Credit the source.

Let's face it. Good ideas travel fast and with social media platforms, they travel far and wide. Let's work together to make sure we are building common ground, that we are connecting with each other, and that we are truly a unified force.